More investigations for more people

The request was partially successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

After much pubic disquiet with the service of PHSO it has decided to do 'more investigations for more people'.

Please tell me if there were any changes made to the way in which investigations are now carried out?

I can't find anything on the PHSO web site about changes in the way in which it operates .

Are there any guidelines for your staff to work differently?

As of this moment it would appear to me that nothing has changed in the way in which staff investigate, so no different outcomes although more of them.

Please also tell me, what is the PHSO's definition of 'investigate'.

Yours faithfully,

Brenda Prentice

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your correspondence.

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foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

 

Dear Mrs Prentice

 

Your information request FDC-238148

 

Thank you for your email of 11 October 2015 requesting information about
changes to PHSO’s casework policy and guidance since the implementation of
‘more investigations for more people’ strategy.

 

We note the similarity between this request and a request you submitted
privately to PHSO which we responded to on 26 October 2015 (our reference:
FDN-236169). Under Section 14(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a
public authority does not have to comply with a request which is
identical, or substantially similar to a previous request submitted by the
same individual, unless a reasonable period has elapsed between those
requests. There is no public interest test.

 

We consider that your request of 11 October 2015 is exempt under s14 (2)
as a reasonable period of time has not elapsed since you requested the
same or similar information.

 

Information about our casework polices and processes (all up dated and
implemented since the strategy you refer to was implemented) are available
on our website here:
[1]http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/bei...

 

These policies set out in more detail what PHSO means by an investigation.
However, you may also wish to refer to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act
1967 and the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993 which can be found
here:
www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are...

 

Yours sincerely

 

Luke Whiting

Head of FOI/DP

 

 

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References

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1. http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/bei...

Dear foiofficer,

Dear Luke,

I am so confused.

Would you please just respond either to this request or the other request you say is similar and tell me what are case workers doing differently since the 'More investigations for More people' or whatever it is called.

Are new 'investigators' better qualified to carry out better investigations now?

For a service that deals with real people you are all so 'wordy', can't you be straight forward? Please just answer?

How are case workers doing things differently? Are there new guidelines? Has anything changed?

Yours sincerely,

Brenda Prentice

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK Government quality mark initiative for information security products and services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

It would seem that PHSO want you to spend your time going through their policies to see if you can detect any difference Brenda. That would also mean reading through all the previous policies prior to the 'more impact' campaign. This is clearly another non-answer from PHSO.

My guess is that the previous 'assessment' process is now called an 'investigation' and the aim of the exercise is to close each case down as quickly as possible.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

Yes phsothefacts I think you are right, but why can't they be open and transparent about it?

It is a simple request. Is anything done differently now? Yes/No.
If yes, what, if no why not!!!!!

Brenda

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

That would be very helpful I agree, but apparently they have nothing to say.

Colin Hammonds left an annotation ()

.....the PHSO ......almost a nineteen seventies comedy from the BBC....i mean you couldn't make this up if you tried...i think it's the caseworkers working from home that's done it for me....

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

My last vestige of trust in PHSO was killed off by the #mythbuster exercise. PHSO pretending to be listening and learning, then turning all negative criticism into nothing more than a 'myth'. Blame the public for their misconceptions because we're perfect attitude.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

My faith in this organisations integrity went when I read the internal paperwork on the PHSO's ridiculous vexing if my 'Executive Office' request.

It was subsequently overturned by the court, which understood that the vexing criteria for FOIA requests isn't that the PHSO says: 'We just don't like it'......and the court is supposed to comply with its diva-like opinion - by making giving it a legal thumbs up.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Dear Luke,

You have told me two requests are similar and you don't need to answer, does that mean not answer either of them?

I really would like an answer please.

I have not made an official complaint about my private papers being sent to someone else...I have forgiven your department's mistake.

So how about a little understanding from your department towards me?

This request is overdue, pleaser respond.

Yours faithfully,

Brenda Prentice

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK Government quality mark initiative for information security products and services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Mrs Prentice

Your request: FDC-238148

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that you found my response confusing.

For the sake of clarity, we sent a response to your first request to your private email account on 26 October 2015. As that request was made before the one you made above and was for the same information, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we do not have to provide you with a further response.

If you are unhappy with our technical application of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 then you are entitled to request an internal review of our response to either request.

Alternatively if you want to discuss PHSO's service or give feedback about your case then please contact our customer care team who may be better placed to help you.

Yours sincerely

Luke Whiting
Head of FOI/DP

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK Government quality mark initiative for information security products and services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

'For the sake of clarity, we sent a response to your first request to your private email account on 26 October 2015'

Dear Mrs P

We really don't want to put this information on WDTK ..so we rooted through our files for your private address ...and sent it there instead.

We did this on the grounds that presumably because you are so dim as to not know where you want the response sent.

Yet if you didn't receive it ( perhaps you've moved email address - if you've updated your equipment ) we are stating that you received it anyway.

But just to be on the safe side, we are stating that you've asked the same question twice - in case we want to vex your request at some point

:::::

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

Just had time to catch up with this.

Please find attached the casework policies and guidance falling within the scope of your request. These are:

· Complex Investigation Guidance 2.0

· Customer Care Guidance 1.0

· Enquiry and Assessment Manual 4.0

· Investigation Manual 6.0

· Investigation Report Checklist

· Review Guidance

· Assessment Code

This information is also available on our website here:

http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/bei...

E. Colville left an annotation ()

I raised questions about this in my now withdrawn evidence submission to the 2015 PACAC inquiry into the work of the PHSO. I withdrew it on principle because PACAC told me that I could not cite extracts from Parliamentary debates which underpin the Ombudsman's legislation and proposals of unconcluded intention for reform of that legislation.

PACAC's stance is in marked contrast to the Pepper v Hart principle whereby the Courts can turn to Hansard debates and other parliamentary or official material as an aid to statutory construction. It appears that evidence to Parliament may not refer to the parliamentray record, pursuant to which I was asked at the 11th hour to redact all the material on which were premised my relevant points and questions. I could not agree to do so: to be (in effect) silenced.

My submission stated:

"This submission will establish the context for raising the following questions:

On any "spring clean of the legislation": [1] where is any delegated legislation amending the presumption in favour of "investigation" by the Ombudsman to more informal methodologies as defined by PHSO's incomprehensible, ever-changing terminology known as their "corporate taxonomy"? [2]

On formal v informal investigations and procedures: why the sudden re-focus since April 2013 on x10 more investigations? What has changed such that PHSO claim they can cope with over 4000 detailed investigations now when it was admitted in the past that they got into "serious trouble" with a fraction of that number and that they "just could not function"[if they] tried to deal with them with historic methods" ? [3]

Does what the Ombudsman "thinks" and "believes" about formal v informal "intervention work" [4] trump what are the statutory purposes and provisions of the legislation?

Have consecutive Ombudsmen, by "going against the grain" and "straining" [5] the legislation, pursuing "intervention work" not contemplated by the legislation, been acting ultra vires ?

On statutory discretion whether or not to investigate: Have the Ombudsmen so regularly abused it as not to amount to an exercise of discretion at all? Does the arbitrary and unreasonable use of power by the Ombudsmen signify that the discretion has in fact lost its true character?

On maladministration: What is to be done when the Ombudsman service is itself routinely guilty of maladministration by reference to (in addition to the well-known Crossman catalogue [6]) such simple definitions as, for example, those given by Sir William Armstrong, Head of the Civil Service in 1968: "failure to answer a letter; losing the papers or part of them; giving misleading statements to citizens about their legal position; delay in reaching a decision; exhibiting bias; giving incomplete of ambiguous instructions to the officer who is applying the rules; getting the facts in the case wrong; or failing to take facts into account"? [7]

Lord Bingham asserted that the "core of the existing principle is… that all persons and authorities within the State, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered by the courts."

On 18 October 1966 during the Second Reading of the PCA legislation the Leader of the House and Lord President of the Council, Richard Crossman asserted:

"We intend that the outraged citizen who persuades his Member to raise a problem SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN INVESTIGATION, even where he has suffered no loss or damage in the legal sense of those terms, but is simply a good citizen who has nothing to lose and wishes to clear up a sense of outrage and indignation at what he believes to be a maladministration." http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commo...

On 24 January 1967 at Third Reading there was this exchange with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Niall MacDermot:

"(Anthony Buck [Ombudsman]): " … if the Parliamentary Commissioner [referring to himself as Ombudsman] were to undertake matters other than those in the Bill, he would be acting ultra vires. What would be required would be a short Act of Parliament. As I understand it, the Parliamentary Commissioner could not be authorised merely by Resolution of both Houses to undertake an investigation outside the ambit of the Bill. But perhaps the…Financial Secretary will indicate whether that view of the law is correct or not.

(Niall MacDermot): Where a person has an alternative remedy, whether to a tribunal or a court of law, that will not be an absolute bar to his case being investigated by the Commissioner, who will have a discretion in such cases as to whether or not to investigate. If he thinks that the case should more properly be dealt with by the alternative proceedings he will say so and, in the exercise of his discretion, will refuse to investigate. But if he is satisfied that there are good reasons why the complainant should not have recourse to those other remedies he will then be able to act." http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...

On 7 July 1998 Michael Buckley Ombudsman gave the following evidence to PASC:

"(Mr Buckley) ….we are working frequently, if I can put it in these terms, against the grain of the legislation. We try to reduce our throughput times, we try to be more efficient and more responsive, but very often the procedures that are imposed upon us by the legislation—and this is particularly true of me as the Parliamentary Ombudsman—make it more difficult. … there is the fact that we think the time has come for a spring clean of the legislation….The majority of cases that I look at as Health Service Ombudsman are about things that have already happened, someone has perhaps died or there have been serious side-effects of an operation. There is nothing you can do immediately successfully to put that right. What the complainant is looking for is an investigation of the facts and an impartial judgment on what happened and that means quite often what the complainant is looking for, and what we therefore do, is a full investigation and we then commission advice from external experts and produce a report. All of that takes time. Similarly, on the parliamentary side we tend to get, as it were, cases that have got more history to them. ….we get a significant number of cases which are very old, very deeply entrenched, and that takes time. There is also the factor ….that the procedure laid on me by the Parliamentary Commissioner Act in particular is very elaborate. We have to decide whether it is in the jurisdiction, we have to send a statement of complaint and proposal to investigate to the principal officer and we then have to produce a report. Also, we are always concerned with the extent to which we can properly deal directly with the complainant rather than the referring Member. We are working with a more elaborate set of legislation in a situation where it is not altogether clear who our customer is, as it were. There are a lot of problems there. [para 4]]

(Chairman): ...the Ombudsman's discretion category seems to have gone up from around the six per cent mark in 1995 and 1996 to over 20 per cent in 1997 or 21 per cent if we take a 15-month period, if I understand it correctly. Anyway it seems certainly to have gone up by 350 per cent as a share of the total of reasons for refusing to investigate. What is the reason for that?[para 9]

(Mr Buckley) The reason for that essentially is that it is a byproduct of our greater resort to INFORMAL ENQUIRIES. We are getting more papers, we are finding out more, so we are able to say we have looked into this and there is a perfectly good explanation, no injustice, no maladministration, it is outside jurisdiction, whatever it may be.

(Chairman) You are working yourself out of a job in that sense then.
[para 10]

(Mr Buckley) In a sense.

(Chairman) .... The informal part of your Office's capacity is working the formal part out of a job. Is that right? You are getting far MORE CASES RESOLVED BY INFORMAL MEDIATION.
[para 11]

(Mr Buckley) We are.

(Chairman) Your Office is involved in that informal mediation in that you are giving guidelines.
… [para 12]

(Mr Buckley) Yes, we are reducing the number of cases we are investigating. One of the issues which comes up here is whether we are really doing ourselves justice by the way in which we present these figures. The reason we do it is that the statute says either you investigate or you can put out a statement of reasons for not investigating and that counts as a rejection. A rejection just sounds to most people outside as though we are writing back and saying we are not going to do anything about this case. That is not true, we are doing things about a good number of these cases and one of the things I shall be considering for the next Annual Report is whether I cannot produce something which will stick to the statute but still give a truer picture of what we are actually doing.[para 12] ....

We always have to choose between simplicity and accuracy…[para 15].

…..we are doing our best within the constraints of the Act to resolve more complaints informally by making informal inquiries of the Department, getting them sorted, rather than automatically assuming if there is something to look at we have to go through issuing a statement of complaint going through to full investigation. So what I mean is working, to some extent, against the grain of the Act. I believe that I am within the Act but I am straining it. I have to be candid about that. Yes, we have done better but I think we could do a good deal better still if we were not subject to the constraints of the legislation. [para 27]
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

On 17 January 2000 the Minister, Lord Falconer, told Parliament:

"The procedure of the parliamentary ombudsman is a cumbersome business. In effect, it is prescribed by statute and involves three stages. First, the parliamentary ombudsman has to decide whether or not he can consider the complaint. Secondly, he must pass the complaint to the relevant department, which then considers the matter. Thirdly, once he has the department's response, the parliamentary ombudsman investigates the matter himself.

At the first stage, the parliamentary ombudsman has the option of deciding not to investigate. BUT, IN STATUTORY TERMS. HE CAN EITHER DECIDE NOT TO INVESTIGATE OR HAVE A FULL-BLOWN INVESTIGATION. IT IS QUITE DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO DO SOMETHING IN BETWEEN. He does his best to think of ways round that restriction, but it is a restrictive process. The idea that one would increase his workload by 44 per cent, without also looking at the manner in which he carries out his procedures, seems a very bad way to consider whether or not to change the position in relation to ombudsmen…..

The third issue is what process is presently underway in order to see what should happen to the ombudsmen. In October 1998, the ombudsmen themselves …suggested that there should be a review of their procedures. They raised specifically…the issues about how their procedures could be improved. In response, and as part of the "modernising government" agenda, the Government set up a review of the procedures for ombudsmen. That review is considering the MP's filter and what improvements in procedure can take place…"

(Column 965) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

A 2000 Cabinet Office Review of the Ombudsman explains:

"The screening process requires the PCA to take a prima facie view of the merits of the complaint and also to decide, by exercising his discretion under the 1967 Act, whether it would be an appropriate use of resources to investigate the complaint. In the later 1990s, the Ombudsman decided that his office had perhaps been requiring too much in the way of evidence from complainants to satisfy his office that there was a prima facie case. As the Cabinet Office review found: " There is much emphasis on establishing whether there is a prima facie case before the Ombudsman is prepared to investigate - this puts pressure on the complainant to (in effect) prove their case…. In his Annual Report for 1998-99 (para 1.6-1.8) the Ombudsman had already concluded that "there is a risk that the evidential burden can be set too high." In his Annual Report for 1999-2000, the Ombudsman explained: "It will still be right to refuse to investigate complaints when it is clear that they express nothing more than discontent with the substance of a discretionary decision. Otherwise, my office will exercise a clear bias in favour of starting an investigation. The office began to give this modified approach effect from November 1999: since then, the proportion of complaints for investigation has risen by 6% (para. 1-14)."

On 31 January 2002 Christopher Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary Cabinet Office gave the following evidence to PASC:[2]

" (Chairman): You mentioned within the memorandum[3] that it would take primary legislation to push through all of the changes. You also state that it might be possible to make some of the changes by regulatory change. What sort of change would you be talking about there?


(Mr Leslie) …. The difficulty is that the legislation really is quite prescriptive ….. There are some real difficulties I think that are driving forward reform but in the meantime there are ways in which the day-to-day workings of the ombudsman can be improved. I think primary legislation is the real step that now needs to be taken.

(Chairman) That is a splendid ministerial answer. The problem is it does not tell me what I wanted to know…..(para 22) .....Let us just move on then and look in the memorandum at 7. You are saying that you want the ombudsmen to be able to RESOLVE complaints RATHER THAN FORMALLY INVESTIGATE AND REPORT; (para 30)

(Mr Leslie) No, not at all. If you think that the only mechanism for solving an individual's case is by producing a formal report that has to be set in stone and in legislation and then published, then perhaps you deal with your constituents in a different way than I do. I think the modern ability to pick up a telephone and knock heads together is often as effective as writing down a formal report. Some of those legislative constraints on the ombudsman prevent that kind of work taking place. Yes, we should have an approach for reporting, and if necessary exceptional reporting, to Parliament, and placing things in annual reports as well. If it is a day-to-day case that can be solved with a few conversations and getting individuals together from government, then surely that is the common sense approach we should all take?"

On 21 March 2002 a memorandum from Michael Buckley to PASC explained:

"We have built on the improvements to our working methods started in 2000. For example, in the first 11 months of this business year 39 per cent of complaints were resolved by enquiries of the bodies complained about, compared to 32 per cent at the same time last year. We also have had success in improving the speed with which we deal with complaints: 68 per cent of cases have either been resolved or a statement of complaint issued within six weeks. This compares to a figure of 64 per cent for the equivalent period in 2000-01. There is also a target of resolving matters (or issuing a statement of complaint) within 13 weeks in all cases other than those where there are reasonable prospects of resolution without initiating the investigation process. By the end of February only nine cases had exceeded 13 weeks (compared to 53 in 2000-01); and in six of those cases resolution had been imminent at the 13 weeks' stage. 3. By the end of February we had completed 173 statutory investigations and had discontinued investigation in 81 cases, as suitable resolution had been achieved. That these are slightly lower figures than 2000-01 reflects the fact that more cases are being resolved without the need to initiate an investigation. Even though an increased number of the more straightforward complaints were dealt with by enquiries of the body complained against, the average throughput time for completed and discontinued investigations has been maintained at 45 weeks;

…For most of the Office's history, the emphasis was very heavily on formal investigations, formal reports, and that indeed is very much the direction that the 1967 Act gives to the Office. I came to believe fairly early in my tenure as Ombudsman that that was increasingly unsatisfactory in modern conditions. Not only was it one of the reasons for the very large backlog which the Office had at the end of 1996, I believed it was not really suited to what so many people wanted. I have a rule-of-thumb distinction between a problem (which is something that can be rectified by action, as it were: the paying of a benefit or getting child support maintenance paid) and a complaint (which is when something has gone wrong and cannot be reversed and what is needed is explanation: for example, if a road has been built in the wrong place, it is not going to be taken up, but then what is needed is an investigation into what happened, why, and perhaps some sort of redress). The Office was good at dealing with complaints, with the elaborate investigation; it was not nearly so good at dealing with problems…. Increasingly, we have tried to push the Office in that direction, having more flexibility to deal with complaints/problems as they deserve, as their merits deserve, not to say that everything must be pushed into this investigation and reporting mode. That, I think, is the direction which we have taken, the direction which I think a new institution can take still further.

Since, for most of its history, the only way of dealing with a complaint, taking positive action on a complaint, was to issue a statutory report…on average a Member of the House of Commons has received a report perhaps once every three years. It does seem to me that if Richard Crossman had gone down for the second reading of the Bill in 1966, if he had been asked that question, "What is the workload of the Office?" and he had had a good crystal ball with him and had said what I have just said, he would have been laughed out of the chamber. ….The Office ….is particularly well equipped to pick up the difficult case for sustained investigation and so on. It has not been well equipped, it has not been successful, in dealing with the run of the mill complaints which are both the normal bread and butter work of most ombudsmen abroad and also—and I think this is all too often overlooked—a very necessary part of some of the wider lessons which an ombudsman can draw. (para 60)

(Chairman) If you were not getting such a modest quantity of complaints, how on earth would the Office operate?

(Michael Buckley) It would be necessary, of course, to change working methods…If one looks back a few years to see what happened when the Office received 1300/1500 complaints, it got into serious trouble. We have been able to deal with …2,000 complaints. In fact, we will have reduced the investigation backlog yet further by the end of this year. We have been successful in resolving a very large number of complaints informally and I think those methods could be taken still further….I cannot disagree with you, if the Office received two, three, five times as many complaints as it does now and tried to deal with them with historic methods, it just could not function. (para 61)

….the whole structure of the Act ..…emphasises investigation and reporting rather than resolution of complaints. I believe that is unhelpful. It is one of the reasons for the low output of the Office, the reason the Office does deal by international standards with relatively few complaints, and I believe the long-term implications are serious to Parliament. (para 62)

(Chairman) …if the Government keeps on dragging its feet about the fundamental reform of the whole Parliamentary Ombudsman system, would a good fall-back position be to try to sort out ….some of the problems with the original legislation causing problems about length of investigation?


(Sir Michael Buckley) ….I think one has to be clear: it is not just a matter of Parliament changing the one section of the Act …. certainly, provisions which enabled the Office to deal more flexibly and more expeditiously with complaints would be a valuable step…" (para 63)

Turning next to a 2005 Cabinet Office Consultation Paper "Reform of Public Sector Ombudsmen Services in England". It states:

"Under the existing legislation, the powers of the public sector ombudsmen are limited to the formal investigation of complaints and there is no specific provision for more informal or alternative means of resolving a complainant's grievance or dispute, for example by mediation. The absence of such a provision is a burden on the public sector ombudsmen which prevents them from providing a more effective and efficient service for complainants. It is a burden because the public sector ombudsmen are obliged to conduct a formal investigation even though they might in a given case form the view that a less formal procedure would be a quicker and more cost effective way of resolving the issue which would clearly not only be to the benefit of the ombudsmen but also the complainant who would benefit from a more informal and efficient process. …..The objective of these proposals are to remove the legal restrictions which prevent the main public sector ombudsmen from ….seeking to resolve a complaint without having to conduct a formal investigation."
http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/...

On 5 November 2009, giving evidence to PASC, Ann Abraham Ombudsman asserted:

" …we do look at and assess thousands of cases. It is only a few hundred that go through for full investigation…We intervene short of an investigation in quite a large number where we get some kind of positive resolution. So a lot is going on at the front end in our customer services and assessment process, and then our investigation directorates are taking for a full investigation a relatively small proportion of those.

(Chairman) ,…in 2006/07 you were taking 1,682 complaints for investigation,…and in 2008/09 that was down to 401. That is a huge change in the number of case taken on for investigation is it not?

(Ann Abraham) Of course…we subsequently wrote to you about the way our methodologies and terminology had changed over the years. I think it is only in the last two or three years, really, that there is a consistency of terminology which enable you to say actually those figures are comparable. I think that historically a lot of the thousand or more cases that you quote would have been called an investigation when, in fact, they were much nearer what we would now call an intervention. So I do not think it is very easy to track it,…we have tried to say a great deal more in the Annual Report about the sort of intervention work we are doing,…..Generally, if we say to a parliamentary body, in jurisdiction, "Somebody has come to us. We had a look at it. We think you could sort it out", the parliamentary body is more likely to say "okay" then we will take this back and we will take your steer on this and you will not see that again."

…..no complaint that comes to us is looked at in isolation any more, and we have a well developed system now in our casework management system - forgive me - what we call a "corporate taxonomy". Basically, it is a series of key words which will be around the area in which the complaint is happening ….So there is a range of data that we are collecting so that we can make connections across cases and every assessment will have a precedent check looking at what else is in the office from that Trust, from another GP practice, from that organization, whether there are similar issues. So the office…is pretty good, as part of a broader knowledge and information management programme, at making those connections across different complaints."

Fast forwarding to 2015, evidence of PHSO's discombobulating procedures and terminology is seen in this FOI request: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

On the inadequacies of trackability, precedent checking and review on the basis of any reliance on PHSO key word searches and data management systems see: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

The Deputy Ombudsman, Mick Martin, asserts in the Annual Report 2015 that: "A new quality framework is helping us assure the quality of our casework". That assurance is entirely wide-open. It begs the question: What precisely is known about the "quality" of the PHSO casework at each and every stage across the ever-changing methodologies and terminology? How is it at all possible to compare like with like? "

The Ombudsman's evidence of December 2015 to PACAC's 2015 inquiry on the work of PHSO does nothing to address any of the points and questions I would have liked PACAC to directs their minds. I states in relevant part:

" 10. Providing answers for people who complain is the foundation of our work. We are doing this at a time when there is significant pressure on public finances so we must also deliver value for the taxpayer. Our total costs have been broadly flat for five years while we have delivered more impact for more people. In 2014-15 we:

Completed ten times more investigations than before we began our modernisation programme. To deliver more impact for more people we lowered the threshold to be reached before we would carry out an investigation, completing 4,159 in 2014-15 compared with 384 in 2012-13.

Took less than half the time from allocating a case to an investigator to completing the investigation than we did before we began our modernisation programme. Investigations took an average of 117 days in 2014-15 compared with 305 days in 2012-13.

11 We have delivered this by moving resources from corporate services to what people value – investigations and final decisions. More efficient working and operational improvements in productivity saw our cost per case investigated reduce by 6% in 2014-15. We also invested in our capacity to deliver impact beyond our work on individual complaints by investing in our capacity to investigate systemic issues across the public sector. This has begun to deliver impact by helping Parliament hold services to account though the type of reports we describe later in this memorandum."

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc...

D. Speers left an annotation ()

I agree with JT Oakley.....by using your email address I believe PHSO is hiding something. Maybe worth copying and Pasting any future email replies to a WDTK annotation!

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

The FOIA team doesn't answer questions Brenda, all it can do is provide data - files etc- to respond to the request.

So Mr Whiting can only send the forms on file etc - as an explanation of the process etc to you - to answer the request.

But unfortunately , if the PHSO was a contestant on Mastermind, it's specialist subject would be ' Confusing files 2010-2016'.

So even if you get the data, it's usually as clear as mud.

Dear foiofficer,
Dear Luke,

Reading the links you have sent to me about the phso new way of working since 'more investigations for more people' plus what Mike Martin said at the annual phso meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday, I understand that caseworkers can now investigate issues beyond what a complaintent has been able to find out.

Also that a case worker can now look at complex cases that involve more than oneTrust/Authority whether or not the complaintent is a ware of mistermeaners by another body.

In order that this is a change in working practice this can be done on their own and not nessesarily as a joint investigation

Can you please confirm my understand of the information you have given me now that phso has 'opened its doors' to complainents
Yours sincerely,

Brenda Prentice.

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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J Roberts left an annotation ()

Ronnie Cowan MP challenges the PHSO's value-for-money claim by comparing it to the Scottish Ombudsman (PACAC 12/1/16).

"Q102   Ronnie Cowan: If it was a closer number, I could go with that argument, but if we look at investigations completed, it is 4,159 compared with 944. That is just over four times as many with 10 times the amount of money and 10 times the amount of staff."

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc...

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Mrs Prentice

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we have provided you with the recorded information we hold (policy and guidance) about how PHSO handles and considers the complaints received.

If you want to talk to PHSO about that information, I can only suggest you do so as part of your correspondence with our customer care team.

Kind regards

Luke Whiting
Head of Freedom of Information and Data Protection
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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